Difficulty understanding "a2"

confused by the wording in “Engraving options / Condensing” regarding “a2” markings.

it says: text for “to” indication:

but “a2” is not really “to”, it’s more “by” as in “played by”.

I’ve been hunting around trying to correct an annoying situation in my score, and it was largely caused by this use of “to”.
I was replacing the “to” to “prendre” (take) which I also needed for instrument changes.

These are two different things, with entirely different meanings.

“à flute” (to flute)
“à2” (played by 2)
are really not the same.

Anyway, hopefully a better wording for this section can be devised.

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It means you’re going from having the 1. and 2. written in seperate voices to having them written in one combined voice that both play.

as you can see, this is problematic for anyone who is used to a language other than English.

even in English you won’t find “to 2” to indicate a unison.

Indeed the italian preposition “a” used in a2 (a due) , a3 (a tre), etc. means the way/quantity of grouping, instead of a direction (as the “to” would suggest, but I am really not an english linguist). For example “a due a due” literally means “two by two” or “una cena a due” means “(a) dinner for two” (where due=2).

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it’s exactly the same in French (though with an accent on the “a”.) :wink:

but even in English, the “a” would not translate as “to”.
it would rather translate as “by”. as in “played by 2”.

I think the use of “to” in the menu’s directions causes more confusion than anything.

I had to look up this topic before posting. Is there any chance it might just represent that “this music goes to 2 players”?

Displaying '(…) “to” indication" on condensing might be weird, but it’s pretty obvious it is on condensing, because it’s literally in the condensing section.
You’ll either see “take Fl.”, “to Fl.”, “muta in Fl.”, “para Fl.”, “prendre Fl.” and in German I don’t remember.

Michel, you could have your score in English, title, instrument names, detailed dynamic expression and performance note, and you could still have a2 or a 2 markings, because they’re universal, just like you could have the tempo marking Allegro assai. Any conductor familiar with the most basic music concepts wouldn’t be confused about what the marking would mean.
However, I still support the text change in engraving options to clear any doubts.

I guess I never really thought about the literal translation, but just knew a due meant “boffadem” playing. Not that it’s terribly accurate in musical matters, but Wikipedia describes it as meaning “for two.”

I agree the text for “to” indication setting seems oddly named.

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Since the whole “phrase” is an abbreviation, one might as well figure one is assigning the notes “to both.”

I wonder if it is from the German “zu 2” - in that case, it looks like “zu” translates to the word “to”.


In German „zu 2“ is not the correct way to call up à2. It is not „zu Zwei“ but in correct German rather „zu Zweit“.
Zwei (2) is just a quantity/number, zu Zweit calls up a pair of individuals.


I wonder how much the syntax of the description affects people’s understanding of the term or Dorico’s description. Although I am admittedly a native speaker of English and may not thoroughly understand the international implications, I wonder how significant an issue this is. (I was also an English teacher and deeply into grammar.)

In my opinion - not much at all.

Btw, in addition to Italian, French and German, I am told that Alexander Borodin sometimes used the Russian language for this marking and that in Russian “a due” is better understood as twogether, (and maybe a3 = threegather), meaning jointly, as a pair.

the easiest way to fix this minor issue would be to have the section that applies to “a2” actually use “a2” in the prompt text, rather than “to”.

I needed to change both the text for “a2” and “to auxiliary instrument”, but kept getting tripped up because both different sections referred to “to”.

Since “a2” is pretty much universally understood for what it is, maybe replace the “to” in Engraving Options / Condensing with “a2”? that way, someone could replace the non-accented “a” of the Italianate “a2” to, for example, the accentuated version in French “à2”. Or to whatever other text someone could need.

Then it would leave the Instrument Changes text with the perfectly understandable “to”, which can then be replaced if need be with the correct language equivalent.